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A foolish idea to train seagulls to mob U-boats was discarded

Posted in Birds, Historical articles, Oddities, War, Weapons, World War 1, World War 2 on Monday, 30 April 2012

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This edited article about crazy military inventions originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 697 published on 24 May 1975.

seagulls' nest, picture, image, illustration

Nesting seagulls

War brings forward plenty of crazy inventions as well as good ones. At the beginning of the Second World War, death rays were all the rage. The trouble was that none of them worked until the terrible atomic bomb made its ghastly debut in 1945.

Incredible schemes in this century, which never got off the ground in more ways than one, have included shells filled with poisonous snakes. When you come to think about it, this would not have been the easiest of things to arrange, and was liable to have backfired if the snakes had decided to crawl back to your own trench. Even the revolting use of poisonous gas, which was tried to such deadly effect, sometimes went wrong when the wind suddenly changed and blew the gas back to the user.

The prize for a silly idea must go to the seagull scheme, which went like this. First build yourself a fleet of dummy submarines, then let their non-dummy guns fire grain into the air, which would then be swallowed by excited seagulls.

From then on, when the seagulls have been taught to identify submarines with a good tuck-in, any real enemy “sub” that surfaces will be besieged by frantic birds, waiting for their free rations. “Ho, ho!” think the gunners on shore, seeing a cloud of seagulls out to sea. “There must be a submarine on the surface.” Not surprisingly, it was never tried.

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